Students stay connected through devotion to Our Lady
The closure of public access to the Sacraments in March this year was a bit like being an astronaut who, through some malfunction or explosion, is sent flying away from his ship into the vacuum of outer space.
Outer space is lonely. You can hear no words of absolution, taste no Bread of Angels, and smell no incense drifting up from the thurible at midnight on Easter morning. There is only you and your thoughts, hurtling through the darkness.
Fortunately, eight hundred years ago, Our Lady gave to St. Dominic what would become my lifeline through those days, the tether that bound my space suit to the fixed orbit of participation in God’s grace. She gave him the Rosary.
When news of the campus shutdown broke, an idea for a Zoom Rosary was floated by several students involved with religious clubs and activities. A few of us began to host them every day, sending meeting links and reminder messages in student group chats. I was surprised at the number of students who dedicated themselves to this devotion each day amid the stress of nationwide shutdown and exhausting online classes.
As the weeks wore on, the Zoom Rosary became the fixed point of my day around which everything else revolved. No matter how many hours I gave to online homework or wasted sitting around my house, I knew that 3 p.m. was dedicated to the Blessed Mother and nothing else. The fruits of our prayer overflowed into the time after the Rosary ended, and those of us who gathered virtually often spent hours in conversation about the struggles of daily life and the theological questions we were pondering. I can count many friendships that were either strengthened or formed entirely through this group prayer. Now, when I see those people on campus, I feel a special joy from knowing we helped carry each other through a time of deep suffering.
Since our return to campus, I most frequently pray the Rosary alone. While I enjoy the opportunity for contemplation, especially in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, I often struggle to stay focused and alert during my prayer. The Rosary is difficult. It demands a lot from the one who prays it. So for those of you who find it hard to pray the Rosary, I offer this advice:
Read Scripture. Too often we fly through the meditations on each mystery and start the next decade without really pondering what Our Lady is inviting us to ponder. I accompanied each decade of the Zoom Rosary with a passage from the Bible that corresponded to that particular mystery. It enhanced my love for both the Rosary and Scripture while allowing me to reflect more deeply on the mysteries of our faith.
Pray with other people. Leading one decade of the Rosary is a lot easier than leading five, and saying half of a Hail Mary is easier than saying a whole. Bear one another’s burdens and pray for one another’s intentions. No matter how far you are from the Sacraments, where two or three are gathered in His Name, there He is with them.
Don’t be afraid of “losing focus.” The purpose of the Rosary is not merely to repeat the Hail Mary 53 times, but to allow the repetition to draw you into a contemplative state in which your soul is receptive to hearing the Voice of God. Rather than forcing yourself to get “back on track” when your mind wanders, try instead to offer a Hail Mary for each person or place or situation you think about as they enter your mind.
The Rosary is a powerful weapon against sin and evil. It is also a source of great healing and comfort for those who pray it. I invite you, if you have no devotion to the Rosary, to try one today. If you feel that your spiritual life is aimless and adrift, call out to the Mother of God and she will throw you a lifeline that will anchor you firmly in her special love. Slowly, day by day, she will use that line to draw you in closer and closer until finally you are home safe in the Father’s house. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor global pandemics, nor Zoom classes, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Elizabeth Zahorick is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. She enjoys singing, cross-stitching, and learning about philosophy and theology from her brilliant liberal-arts-major friends. Send her Nuptial Mass music recommendations at email@example.com.